An Instagram meme account raised over $6.7 million in a matter of days for Afghan rescue mission

Tommy Marcus's GoFundMe page for Afghanistan
Tommy Marcus's GoFundMe page for Afghanistan.
  • Instagram memer Tommy Marcus, also known as @quentin.quarantio, started a campaign to help Afghans.
  • Raising over $6.7 million, the campaign aims to fly out Afghanswho need help escaping the Taliban.
  • Marcus is working with the US Military and other volunteer groups for the success of the operation.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Tommy Marcus operator of the popular meme page @quentin.quarantio on Instagram, raised over $6.7 million to conduct an emergency flight rescue for people in Afghanistan.

Marcus's GoFundMe raised $800 thousand in its first two hours, and now--having been up for less than a week--Marcus's campaign titled "Flyaway: Emergency Afghan Rescue Mission" is the largest humanitarian effort in the crowdfunding platform's history.

Partnering with organizations like the International Women's Media Foundation and various veterans groups in the Los Angeles area, the fundraiser aims to rescue individuals who are considered "high-value targets" and "who otherwise have no chance of survival in the Taliban-occupied Kabul" and relocate them to countries outside of the US, according to the campaign's GoFundMe page. Such individuals include Afghan men and women who have worked as humanitarian rights lawyers, LGBTQ activists, journalists, government liaisons, artists, and entrepreneurs.

"If these people do not get rescued as soon as possible, neither they nor their families will make it through the month," the fundraiser said.

The campaign, originally with a goal of $550,000, said that every $1,500 raised represents a seat on one of the two planes chartered for a rescue mission. Now at over 12 times its original goal, Marcus and his team of US Army Special Forces veterans and activists are planning on making as many flights as the fund and the governments they are collaborating with will allow, Marcus explained in an Instagram post on Wednesday night.

Until all the evacuees are safe, Marcus and his team are keeping some of the information about the recuse mission private, he explained in an Instagram post. Marcus did not respond to Insider's request to comment.

The mission faces many challenges in guaranteeing the safety of those involved: landing safely in Kabul, vetting the evacuees, and preparing them for a successful life outside of Afghanistan. In an Instagram post shared by Marcus Friday night to update contributors on the progress of the campaign, Marcus did state that the US Military is involved to help with the project's operation.

Some have doubted whether or not the mission is even possible to pull off.

"How are you going to just land two planes in Afghanistan when they've just restricted air travel in and out of the country?" one Instagram user commented.

In a statement reported by The New York Times, the State Department said: "We appreciate community-led efforts to support the Afghan relocation and resettlement process, which reflects the generosity of the American people and the international community. However, we are unable to verify the authenticity or effectiveness of these efforts."

"I have the deepest gratitude for every volunteer involved," Marcus wrote on Instagram. "Without their tireless efforts, their determination, and their selflessness we wouldn't have a chance to succeed in our mission."

GoFundMe is reviewing every fundraiser to Afghanistan to ensure compliance with the law and financial regulations to protect both organizers and donors, a spokesperson told Insider.

"Our teams are working 24/7 to provide aid for those impacted by this crisis and we are in direct contact with all organizers, including Tommy Marcus from the Flyaway Emergency Afghan Rescue Mission, to ensure the aid is sent safely and securely to those in need," GoFundMe said. "Our Trust and Safety team fully vetted this fundraising effort."

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan's capital Kabul a week ago. Since then the US-backed Afghan government has collapsed. The US has been scrambling to evacuate thousands of Americans as well as Afghans who assisted the US government over the 20-year war, according to Insider.

Footage coming out of Kabul airport from this week showed crowds massing on the tarmac in an effort to get on planes and escape the country. Other photos and videos emerged of Afghans climbing onto jet bridges, hanging onto flights during takeoff, and even what appeared to be people falling off planes in the sky, Insider reported.

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